While the Japanese government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe puts pressure on the South Korean government under President Park Geun-hye to remove or relocate the comfort women statue from in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in connection with the agreement the two countries reached about the comfort women on Dec. 28, 2015, even more comfort women statues are appearing both inside and outside of South Korea.
This month alone – which includes the International Memorial Day for the Comfort Women on Aug. 14 and Liberation Day on Aug. 15 – new comfort women statues will be unveiled in 10 more locations. There are 20 other locations that are taking steps toward installing a comfort women statue, though the unveiling has yet to be scheduled.
“Starting with Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 6, unveiling ceremonies for the Monument to Peace will be held in 10 locations both in Korea and in other countries just this month,” said Ryu Ji-hyeong, an activist, on Aug. 2. Ryu is in charge of matters related to the comfort women statue – officially known as the “Monument to Peace” – for the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop).
“All 10 of these locations are working with Kim Un-seong and Kim Seo-gyeong, the husband-and-wife team of sculptors who cast the Monument to Peace that is in front of the Japanese Embassy to South Korea. If other areas that are working with other artists are included, you might have an even bigger number,” Ryu added.
The first unveiling ceremony this month is being organized by the Statue Establishing Committee in Sydney, which is supported by the Korean community there. The unveiling ceremony will take place at the Sydney Korean Community Center on Aug. 6, with former comfort woman Gil Won-ok, Jeongdaehyeop co-representative Yoon Mee-hyang and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung in attendance.
The statue will be kept at the Korean community center for one year before being permanently installed at the Ashfield Uniting Church (led by Pastor Bill Crews), which is located in Sydney.
This is the twelfth memorial to the comfort women overseas (including both the comfort women statues and commemorative stones), joining one in Japan, nine in the US and one in Canada.
“These Korean anti-Japan activities are being utilized as a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s information operation attempting to cut the ties of the alliance between Japan, the US and Australia” and involve political operatives “connected with North Korea,” a Japanese group was quoted as claiming in an Aug. 1 report by Australia broadcaster ABC.
In South Korea a series of comfort women statue unveiling ceremonies are scheduled for this month. The first will be held at Dangjeong Park in Gunpo, Gyeonggi Province, on Aug. 9, followed by ceremonies at the South Jeolla Province Office, Gimpo and Osan on Aug. 14; at Nonsan, Guro Station, Sangroksu Station and Heukseok Station on Aug. 15; and at Siheung on Aug. 20.
While local governments and local legislatures – including South Jeolla Province, the South Jeolla Province legislature and the city of Gunpo – have been involved in some of the comfort women statue construction projects, the majority of them have been funded by donations from the local community.
The first comfort women statue is the “Young Woman Statue for Peace” that was installed on Peace Street in front of the Japanese Embassy to South Korea. This statue was set up to commemorate the 1,000th weekly Wednesday comfort women demonstration on Dec. 14, 2011, with the goal of remembering the former comfort women and establishing a proper understanding of history.
To date, comfort women statues and memorial stones have been set up in a total of 51 places around the world, 40 of which are in South Korea and 11 of which are in other countries.
The first monument for the comfort women to be built inside South Korea was the “Pagoda of Peace,” which was erected in Chwigan Woods (located in Pyeongsari Park, Hadong County, South Gyeongsang Province) on May 26, 2007, by the Committee to Commemorate Former Comfort Woman Jeong Seo-un. The first monument outside of South Korea was a memorial stone set up in Miyako-jima, an island that is part of Japan‘s prefecture of Okinawa, on Sep. 7, 2008, by Korean and Japanese civic groups.
Comfort women statues were only built intermittently at first, with one in 2007, one in 2008, and one in 2010. But since the comfort women statue went up in front of the Japanese Embassy in 2011, the statues have been increasing exponentially. There were three in 2012, five in 2013, 11 in 2014 and 23 in 2015.
So far this year, additional comfort women statues have been erected at five locations, including Busan’s Choeup neighborhood. Including the 10 sites where statues will be unveiled this month and the 20 or so places that are still finalizing their plans, the number of statues this year is expected to be nearly double last year’s figure.
“There were a lot of Monument to Peace construction projects last year since it was the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan,” Ryu said. “This year, we were expecting the construction trend to slow, but we’re actually seeing an increase since the Dec. 28 agreement between the South Korean and Japanese governments.”
“The Monument to Peace is not simply a reminder of Japan’s war crimes. It also expresses a firm commitment to the idea that there must not be any wars or war crimes in the future, either. Since the Dec. 28 agreement, it appears that more people think that it‘s important to make an effort not to forget these issues,” she said.
Jeongdaehyeop announced that it has declared Aug. 1 to Aug. 16 to be the “4th Week of the International Memorial Day for the Comfort Women.” The group is planning to hold solidarity events to call for the Dec. 28 agreement to be scrapped and that a just solution to the comfort women issue be found. These events, which include the World Solidarity Assembly on Aug. 10 and the Butterfly Culture Festival on Aug. 14, will take place in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
International Memorial Day for the Comfort Women was selected and announced during the 11th Asia Solidarity Assembly for Resolving the Comfort Women Issue which took place in Taiwan in Nov. 2012.
The day was chosen with the hope of moving toward an appropriate solution to the comfort women issue in accordance with the wishes of Kim Hak-sun (Oct. 20, 1924-Dec. 16, 1997). On Aug. 14, 1991, Kim became the first former comfort women to testify in South Korea about the suffering that she and others like her had endured.
By Han-Kye-Re Daily News, Lee Je-hun staff reporter
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Korea and Japanese governments announced that they finally reached an agreement to compensate and acknowledge the comfort women(sex slaves) from the World War 2. However, after the details of the agreement were presented, the surviving comfort women have been devastated. In the agreement, Japanese government did not mention legal responsibility on the matter. Also, Korean government has not consulted the victims prior to the negotiation, which invites doubts on the sincerity of each related government.
Asahi newspaper reported that the agreement from Japanese party requires the removal of the comfort women statue, which is facing the Japanese embassy in Seoul.
After the controversy and outcry from the surviving comfort women and general Korean public, Korean government has tried to calm down the issue.
A surviving comfort woman asks the vice minister of Foreign affairs,visiting to explain Korean government’s position,
“I do not need any money. I want that our part of history is recorded officially and acknowledged legally.For whom this government is existing? For whom this agreement is for?”
Seoul-South Korea on Thursday rejected Japan’s demand that a statue of a girl memorializing Korean “comfort women” erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul be removed.
“Japan’s demand is like mistaking the means for the end,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Joon Hyuk said during a press briefing. “As I said repeatedly, the statue was installed under a civilian initiative.”
He urged Japan to present measures acceptable to the South Korean people and also to the international community.
On Wednesday, South Korea and Japan held the 10th round of diplomats’ talks in Seoul to resolve the issue of Korean women forced to work at wartime brothels for the Japanese military. Japan reportedly demanded during these talks that the statue be taken down.
South Korea is seeking the resolution of the comfort women issue possibly by the end of this year based on its demand that Japan settle the issue in a way acceptable to those women still alive, such as through apology and compensation.
But Japan maintains that everything having to do with compensation was settled under the 1965 bilateral treaty that normalized diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea.
By Japan Times
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Glendale that sought the removal of a controversial statue installed in a city park to honor women coerced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
The statue’s opponents were unable to show that the 1,100-pound memorial caused them harm and Glendale didn’t break any laws by erecting it in Central Park in July 2013, according to a court order signed last week by U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson.
The opponents — Michiko Gingery, a Glendale resident, GAHT-US Corp., an organization that works to block recognition of the former sex slaves, also known as comfort women, and Koichi Mera, a Los Angeles resident — claimed in court records that by installing the statue, Glendale infringed upon the federal government’s exclusive power to conduct foreign affairs, violated the supremacy clause of the Constitution and caused opponents to avoid Central Park because the statue made them feel excluded and angry.
“The fact that local residents feel disinclined to visit a local park is simply not the type of injury that can be considered to be in the ‘line of causation’ for alleged violations of the foreign affairs power and Supremacy Clause,” Anderson said in court documents.
The decision comes after more than a year of unsuccessful attempts to block, and then to remove, the bronze memorial of a girl in Korean dress sitting next to an empty chair. In addition to the lawsuit, multiple delegations of conservative Japanese politicians have traveled to Glendale to ask the City Council to get rid of the monument.
At the same time, supporters who visit the statue leave behind bouquets of flowers and gifts.
“We are pleased that the court recognized our City Council’s right to make public pronouncements on matters important to our community,” said City Attorney Mike Garcia.
William Benjamin DeClercq, an attorney for those who filed the lawsuit, declined to comment on the decision.
The Glendale statue, supported by the Korea-Glendale Sister City Assn. and the Korean American Forum of California, is just one example of a large-scale effort to raise international awareness of the comfort women’s plight.
Surviving comfort women have been calling on the Japanese parliament, known as the Diet, for years, to pen a resolution apologizing for the mistreatment of an estimated 80,000 to 200,000 women from Korea, China, and other countries.
But the awareness campaign has angered Japanese nationals who deny that their country was involved in a system of sexual slavery, despite a personal apology to former comfort women from an ex-prime minister and an admission by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that some women working in brothels overseen by the government were deprived of their freedom.
Phyllis Kim, spokeswoman for the Korean American Forum of California, said her organization’s members are happy with the decision, but they plan to continue to work with local, state and federal governments to honor former comfort women.
“The decision did not change anything. The root cause of the issue has not been resolved and the victims are still waiting for an official apology and reparations from the government of Japan,” Kim said.
Japanese conservatives are taking the offensive in the battle over World War II sex slaves – and it seems likely to do them more harm than good.
Some 300 legislators from around Japan have sent a petition to the city of Glendale, Calif., demanding the removal of a statue honoring women who were forced or coerced into working in brothels serving the Japanese military during World War II.
Supporters of the memorials say as many as 200,000 women from Korea and other Asian countries were forced to work as so-called “comfort women.” The Glendale memorial was built largely at the request of the area’s large Korean-American community. It is a duplicate of a statue installed outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul – one of many irritants to Japan-South Korea relations.
At a Tokyo press conference Tuesday, opponents said the memorial spread “false propaganda” and has resulted in bullying, harassment and discrimination against Japanese residents in the Glendale area. “Japanese schoolchildren are suffering from bullying by Koreans. Some of them told us they feel anxiety because they must hide being Japanese. Korean people are presenting this as a human rights issue, but this can only lead to a new conflict of racial discrimination,” said Yoshiko Matsuura, a Tokyo-area assemblywoman and representative of a conservative group called the Japan Coalition of Legislators Against Fabricated History.
The press conference appeared to be part of a concerted campaign to push back against comfort women charges. Japanese activists in California filed suit in federal court last week demanding the U.S. government order the city of Glendale to remove the statue, situated in a public park. Earlier this week, a spokesman for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the Japanese government would review a landmark 1993 government statement that apologized and admitted responsibility for operating the so-called comfort women system during the war. Any change to that statement is certain to further damage relations with South Korea and China, already at a low point over territorial claims and historical disputes.
Taking the fight over comfort women to the United States is a “huge mistake,” says Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based think tank.
“Clearly the American government is displeased by the notion that the Japanese are taking this argument to our shores and making it an American domestic political battle. It’s something they should settle themselves,” said Glosserman.
The issue already is causing controversy. Glendale’s sister city in Japan canceled a student exchange program in December in protest over the memorial. An online petition at the White House website in support of removing the Glendale statue has received 127,000 signatures; a petition in support of keeping it has attracted 106,000 signatures.
The memorial was installed in a public park in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles, in July 2013. It features a bronze statue of a young Korean woman sitting next to an empty chair. A stone plaque is etched, jarringly, with the title “I Was A Sex Slave of the Japanese Military.” A similar memorial has been built in New Jersey.
According to the lawsuit filed last week, installing the statue “exceeds the power of Glendale, infringes upon the federal government’s power to exclusively conduct the foreign affairs of the United States and violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Matsuura, who traveled to Glendale to deliver a copy of the petition to local officials last month, says the 1993 apology is based on unreliable and unverified testimony. She accused Korea of exporting the issue to the United States.
“We were shocked by a statue of a comfort girl in America, a third country, not in Korea. We have a responsibility to protest,” Matsuura said through an interpreter. A member of her husband’s family served in the Japanese Imperial Army during the war and was taken prisoner in Siberia, Matsuura said.
The Obama administration has become increasingly frustrated with the rightward tilt of Japan’s leadership. The State Department said it was “disappointed” with Abe’s visit in December to the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan’s role in World War II.
Weeks later, it labeled as “preposterous” public statements by an Abe-appointee to the board of the national broadcaster, NHK, that the United States had fabricated war crimes charges against Japan’s wartime leaders to cancel out America’s own war crimes, which he said include the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fire-bombings of Tokyo.
Glosserman says Japanese efforts to re-write wartime history are damaging the interests of both countries. “The United States wants Japan to be a more respected and more effective contributor to regional security, and to play a larger role in the region. And all that this historical revisionism does is undermine that,” he says.
By Time Magazine